P. 1
Kenneth Warren - Between Language and Ta'Wil

Kenneth Warren - Between Language and Ta'Wil

|Views: 1,249|Likes:
Published by Tom Cheetham

More info:

Published by: Tom Cheetham on Apr 03, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Between Language and Ta’wil: Robert Creeley, Jack Clarke and Poetics in Buffalo after Olson

The car of mercury, enabling us, for the moment to leave the sole of the road – whatever speed or combination gets back to you with your wing. David Tirrell, “II,” from: A Curriculum of the Soul: “Alchemy” 2. A certain set of elements that stimulates you as to what you have to do that day, that would be your mercury. David Tirrell, “Notes to the Plates,” from: A Curriculum of the Soul: “Alchemy”

“The soul / is an onslaught” (379, Collected Poems) concludes Charles Olson in the majestic poem “The chain of memory is resurrection . . .” The mythological underworld, which provides Olson with amplitude for soul, “begins with the perspective of death” (5), as James Hillman suggests in The Dream and the Underworld (1979). Accordingly “the shape of the soul / to the person involved” contains an animating necro-script written into “the genetic flow of each life which has given life” (373, Collected Poems), a spiritual hermeneutics for the interior living dead zone. In Olson’s underworld poetics, soul is the phylogenetic lynchpin to the dying self-reflective neuronal witness rooted eternally in “the brain-case of Cro-Magnon man” (372, Collected Poems). Hermes to Hades. “Blake underground” (47, Collected Poems). Soul in Buffalo. Mushroom network. High wire church. For Olson intuition is the psychological function which leads to the “onslaught” of soul. In Psychological Types, published in 1921, C.G. Jung describes intuition “as perception by way of the unconscious, or perception of unconscious events” (518). At another point in the book, Jung relates intuition to “a definite state of psychic ‘alertness’ of whose origin the subject is unconscious” (413). Clearly intuition, with its sympathetic attraction to “perception by way of the unconscious,” generates an intensity of connective, collective vision that drives Olson’s cult of the soul. “The anatomy of intuition,” writes Daniel Cappon in Intuition and Management – Research and Application (1994), “is the genetically structured and stored capacity or innate ability for intuitive intelligence” (15). Olson’s insight into “the genetic flow of each life which has given life” is amplified through Cappon’s clinical observations and psychological research on intuition and its negentropic potentials: In entropic terms, its potential (negative energy) is stored in the batteries of the collective memory and discharged (positive energy) through words, drawings and actions. The individual inherits various amounts of this potential, builds it up and stores its personally unconscious memory vault. (15) Intuition is the innately negentropic psychological function which unites the living and the dead in transcendent perceptions of being and presence. In Jung’s model of


typology, the intermediating power of intuition is connective, expansive and unitive. Similarly cognitions that hinge on the capacity of the brain’s upper right cortex are termed “conceptual, synthesizing, metaphoric, visual, integrative” (415) by Ned Herrmann in The Creative Brain (1994) and John Giannini in Compass of the Soul: Archetypal Guides to a Fuller Life (2004), pp. 319 – 362). These cognitions are correlated with the function of intuition. By way of the upper right cortex of the brain perceptions of the self and the environment are rendered cosmic, cross-modal, fourfold, holistic, mythic, present, other-worldly and trans-local - in principal, perceptions characteristic of intuition (Charles Hampden-Turner, Maps of the Mind: Charts and Concepts of the Mind and it Labyrinths, 1982, pp. 86-89; Harry T. Hunt, On the Nature of Consciousness: Cognitive, Phenomenological, and Transpersonal Perspectives, 1995, pp. 142-160; Francisco Varela, "Not One, Not Two," The CoEvolution Quarterly, Fall 1976, pp. 62-67; John Giannini’s Compass of the Soul: Archetypal Guides to a Fuller Life, 2004, pp. 136-153). Olson’s cosmic claims about the soul are fed from the right brain and shaped through the specific psychic function of intuition. In other words, the complex structure of Olson’s psyche mediates embodied and disembodied states; his intuition generates mythological consciousness and underworld poetics. A self-referential symbolic capacity for death, depth and divinity specific to the “onslaught” of Olson’s soul initiates Jack Clarke and Albert Glover into the intuitive knowledge and thunder-bolt noetics of an omnivorous nous. For Clarke and Glover the structural force of Olson’s intuitive complex nets not only “a definite state of psychic "alertness" of whose origin the subject is unconscious” (413) but also a deep concentration on the totality of imaginal powers and negentropic potentials necessary to enact a particular manifestation of the “onslaught” through A Curriculum of the Soul, a series of poetic essays published as fascicles by the Institute of Further Studies. A Curriculum of the Soul exists within the continuous tradition of Hermeticism, a spiritual path of exotic and free research connected to Hermes, the scribe of the gods and guide of souls in the realm of the dead. In celebrating A Curriculum of the Soul within the underworld poetics and quantum resurrection cycle of Olson’s right brain “onslaught,” I want to propose that Buffalo is an attractor site for the adversative moieties of a coincidentia oppositorum. I hope to demonstrate that with the Language movement becoming more and more visible during the late seventies, SUNY Buffalo became a major site for a clash of poetics. The archetypal forces that drove these moieties to contest matters of language and soul, personality and power at SUNY Buffalo are dialectically structured; they can be imagined as two bicameral camps, each with cognitive biases, quantum effects and poetic moods. On one hand, there is the left brain profane separatist particle Language clan of innies. This clan is indisposed toward the transcendental entity of soul. On the other hand, there is the right brain sacred participatory wave Olsonian clan of outies, disposed toward the transcendental entity of soul. “Paradise is a person,” Olson proclaims in The Maximus Poems. “The soul is a magnificent angel” (240). Against Olson’s image of the essential self, the Language Movement assembled a critical arsenal from Roland Barthes' Writing Degree Zero (1967), Karl Marx's Capital, and Ferdinard de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (1966), to name a few fundamental sources. The Language Movement attacked the


descriptive, naturalistic, referential and transcendental mystifications of literature and accentuated in the field of language the linguistic contradictions of commodity culture. As pivotal members of the Language Movement, Steve McCaffery, Ron Silliman and Charles Bernstein fashioned deconstructive death rays, so to speak. They aimed at Olson’s cult of the soul. “The demise of the transcendental ego, of the authentic self, of the poet as lonely genius, of unique artistic style: these were taken as something of a given,” (169) notes Marjorie Perloff in Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy (2004), describing the critical aims and claims of the Language Movement. From the whole brain typological perspective that Herrmann and Giannini supply, the left brain profane separatist particle Language clan of innies is cognitively pre-disposed to reject holistic and timeless conceits about authorship that strengthen the cult of the soul. The archetypal ingredient of presence, supported through right brain cognitive operations crucial to both intuition and Hermeticism, is squeezed through left brain critical procedures by deconstructive death ray adepts. The right brain median line to “a magnificent angel” is suspect. A Curriculum of the Soul is a right brain production in underground poetics and under-directed thinking; it springs from the unconscious, the root of Olson’s “Projective Verse.” In this psycho-dynamic sense, personally unconscious contents form “a complex of occasions” (The Maximus Poems, 185) that situates the producers of A Curriculum of the Soul between Olson’s “magnificent angel” and deconstructive death ray adepts. As deconstructive death ray adepts take critical aim at the self-presence native to projective underworld poetics, the producers of A Curriculum of the Soul work through the underdirected thinking of intuition to convert the base potential within “a person” into “Paradise (The Maximus Poems¸240). So again, form is an extension of complex. The clash of poetics over “the onslaught” of soul in Buffalo involves claims by these opposing clans to earthly lineage and heavenly linkage. Accordingly Jung’s remarks on the Homeric chain bear meaningfully on the projection points for visionary transmission which inspires the production of A Curriculum of the Soul. “The Homeric chain in alchemy is the series of great wise men, beginning with Hermes Trismegistus, which links earth with heaven” (188), Jung writes in Dreams (1974). To be sure, the Homeric chain marks also “the path of the dead” (167-203) in the Neoplatonic cosmology examined by Moshe Idel in Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism: Pillars, Lines, Ladder (2005). Clearly Neoplatonic inspiration feeds the “onslaught” of soul in Buffalo with angelic forms, geometrical images and vectors to the dead. Such intuitively structured mental imagery, beamed through the brain’s right hemisphere, skews projective attention among the Olsonian clan of outies toward the Homeric chain. In this clash of poetics deconstructive death ray adepts trigger erasures in Buffalo’s right brain poetic lineage, which functions intuitively in service to Olson’s omnivous nous. However, these erasures constellate a necessary underground psychic force fundamental not only to A Curriculum of the Soul and but also to the alchemical operations through which Clarke and Glover will persist as ridiculed companions in the cult of the soul, intent on realizations of Olson’s “onslaught” in celestial realms. Against the wily self-promoting Language poets of this world, then, Clarke and Glover will make the Hermetic journey to what Jung terms in Memories, Dreams and Reflections (1965) “the other pole of the world” (189). A Curriculum of the Soul must therefore be considered “a link in the Aurea Catena which has existed from the beginnings of


philosophical alchemy and Gnosticism down to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. Unpopular, ambiguous, and dangerous, it is a voyage of discovery to the other pole of the world” (188-89), as Jung describes. The primacy of the invisible in the soul-making productions of the Homeric chain yields a coupling of corporeal and spiritual worlds for Buffalo’s right and left brain poetry moieties. The world of spirituality after death that A Curriculum of the Soul imagines bears a crucial relationship to the deconstructive death ray of erasure, which works through language-centered writing to bury Olson’s cult of the soul and so to deepen underworld poetics. In The Dream and the Underworld¸ Hillman locates “desire for Hades” in the urge of the analytical mind, “which makes psyche by taking things apart” (27). Hillman’s treatment of the analytical mind and the death drive can be brought to bear on the Language Movement’s destructive urge toward the self, the subject and Olson’s cult of the soul. Of the analytical mind Hillman writes: “It works through destruction, the dissolving, decomposing, detaching, and disintegrating processes necessary both to alchemical psychologizing and modern psychoanalyzing” (27). As an urge of the analytical mind, the deconstructive death ray of erasure that shows itself in the Language Movement bears a hidden connection to “the mythologems of Hades” (27), so obviously necessary to the underworld poetics fathomed in A Curriculum of the Soul. As the alchemical qualification to A Curriculum of the Soul, deconstructive death rays haunt Clarke and Glover in their quest for invisibility within the underworld poetics of visionary encounters with the living dead. In other words, figures like Dante, Blake and Olson, who inside out, produce for Clarke and Glover spiritual means that qualify the semiotic impulse of postmodern times. Invisible personal revelations from hierophanic beings serve the Hermetic tradition that connects Clarke and Glover to the cosmic soul and divine reality. As Arthur Versluis suggests in Shakespeare the Magus (2001): “These archetypal celestial figures to which Corbin refers are hierophanic beings; through them we are ourselves initiated into the divine mysteries” (42-3). Influenced by Corbin, Clarke and Glover reach toward Olson’s spirit amidst the archetypal figures of heaven and the deconstructive death rays of earth. “Unpopular, ambiguous, and dangerous,” indeed! Again, intuition is the psychological function that supports underground poetics and celestial proclivities evident in right brain attunements to the Homeric chain and Hermetic tradition. It is worth suggesting further by way of the archetypal insight brought by Jung to the Hermetic tradition that Clarke and Glover each labor as individual personalities through the complex, dynamics and structure of an intuitive identity, which is sympathetic to the collective system and co-extensive with the Self, the archetypal source of all other archetypes. As the very center of conscious and unconscious totality, at least in the formulations of analytical psychology expressed through A Curriculum of the Soul, the Self, with its ontological shimmer in the cult of the soul and suspect connection to supernal source, is the target for the deconstructive death rays launched from the Language movement’s postmodern weapons program. The groundbreaking deconstructive death ray launch still relevant to underworld poetics at SUNY Buffalo was accomplished with support of The Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council by Open Letter, Third Series, No. 7, Summer 1977, with Steve McCaffery editing “The Politics of the Referent,” a series of essays intended “to bring to a wider audience theoretical notes on language-centered, de-referential writings” (60).


Included in the launch were Steve McCaffery’s “The Death of the Subject;” Bruce Andrews’ “Text and Context;” Ray DiPalma’s “Crystals;” Ron Silliman’s “from aRb;” Charles Bernstein’s “Stray Straws and Straw Men;” and Ellsworth Snyder’s “Gertrude Stein and John Cage, Three Fragments.” Five years later, Ron Silliman, another deconstructive death ray adept, brilliantly captured the intense emotions and shared fantasy of group mentality manifest in the contest over canon formation and community struggle to legitimate poetry on the basis of human rights to read different works. In “Realism,” published in Ironwood 20 in 1982, Silliman copped an over the top post-Holocaust cue from Jerome Rothenberg: It is in this sense that Jerome Rothenberg rightly compares such consciously exclusionary canon-formation as that of Harold Bloom’s with the practices of Dr. Josef Mengele of Auschwitz. Whether carried out under the guise of criticism or as a contest of bards, what is hidden is the fact of struggle between different groups (not, in this instance, necessarily classes) within the larger social ensemble of the nation. The question is not, as Bloom formulates it, “Which poet shall live?” but which community shall dominate the other, whose set of values will prevail (67). The Angel of Death is a messenger who passes through language to communicate a shadow issue from the psychic background of a canon quibble. From a typological perspective, the feeling function is the causality of the deconstructive death ray aimed through the analytical mind at the subject. Feeling is, in this instance, a shadow function that works against the ego to constellate the magical group-fashioning threat needed to secure a future for the over-thinking language-centered writing collective. In exaggerating the death drive in the canon battle, Silliman amplifies an invisible connection between language-centered writing and underworld poetics attendant upon A Curriculum of the Soul. Dialectically speaking, the serotonin drenched right brain participant experience of being “Under the Mushroom” in Olson’s projective vatic space had to give rise to the left brain prowess of deconstructive death ray adepts who serve the magical groupfashioning powers of the language-centered community. Not surprisingly, then, a deconstructive death ray posse gathered with Silliman in “Aesthetic Tendency and the Politics of Poetry: A Manifesto,” published in Social Text, 19/20 (Fall 1988) to blast the self. Joining forces with Silliman were Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Steve Benson, Bob Perelman, and Barrett Watten whose group manifesto “denies the centrality of the individual artist” (264). Taking aim at the unity of the personality as a whole, the death ray posse declared: “The self as the central and final term of creative practice is being challenged and exploded in our writing” (264). In the context of alchemical erasure and the deconstructive death ray, the poetics that preoccupied Creeley and Clarke in Buffalo after Olson’s death can be grouped around two opposing poles of agonistic activity, each capable of shooting a different order of death ray at adversaries. The exoteric pole of this world is rooted in Creeley’s crystallization of an individual self with an existentialist ontology; it proclaims Language through Charles Bernstein’s combative shtick and secularization of Olson’s mana personality. The esoteric pole is rooted in Clarke’s incorporation of “an initiatic cosmos,”


with all the change in ontological status and breakthrough of existentialist barriers that initiation could possibly imply. Thus Clarke professed in a letter written to Glover on December 18, 1971: …..I stress The formal organization, the theoretical, Because I believe an initiatic cosmos must be faithfully & fully consumed, ‘eaten’, like Runes, of the Tree, until there isn’t any more, Before Helter-Skelter will work (for Society of Event) In short, Clarke is stressing gnosis, described by Arthur Versluis in Gnosis and Literature (1996) as “direct experiential insight into the divine” (11). On a gnostic plain, richly informed by a reading of Henry Corbin, Clarke persists with claim to a poetically useful and world changing vision of soul as the invisible and ultimate qualification of a poet whose ego dies to the work and whose image is forever organized inside out by a divine companion. In another letter written to Glover on December 15, 1978, Clarke makes clear the invisible vectors of soul-making that support the esoteric order of incorporation for the Institute of Further Studies: The IFS is at least invisible ( cf. Jerusalem ) — not a discoverable or locatable entity except through work, & if there were any, there’d be activity beyond “waiting” for next fascicle Clarke insists on the primacy of the invisible in the visionary landscape of the Institute of Further Studies. How else might the soul break into a curriculum? Thus Clarke makes clear to Glover that the workings of the esoteric pole entail the return of visible things to their origins in an invisible source. In other words, the action of the Institute of Further Studies is substantially predicated on Corbin’s Hermetic notion of ta’wil, which he explains in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (1960; 1988): Ta’wil is, etymologically and inversely, to cause to return, to lead back, to restore to one's origin and to the place where one comes home, consequently to return to the true and original meaning of a text. It is "to bring something to its origin. . . . Thus he who practices the ta’wil is the one who turns his speech from the external (exoteric) form [zahir] towards the inner reality [haqiqat]. This must never be forgotten when, in current usage, ta’wil is said, and rightly, to be a spiritual exegesis that is inner, symbolic, esoteric, etc. Beneath the idea of exegesis appears that of a Guide (the exegete), and beneath the idea of exegesis we glimpse that of an exodus, of a "departure from Egypt," which is an exodus from metaphor and the slavery of the letter, from exile and the Occident of


exoteric appearance to the Orient of the original and hidden Idea. (29) With Olson dead, “the move backward from Logos to Mythos” (3) that Hillman associates with ta’wil, accelerates for Clarke and Glover with deepening insight into the cult of the soul. There can be little doubt, when it comes to the organization of A Curriculum of the Soul as a cosmic text that Olson’s visionary claim on Corbin and the spiritual hermeneutics of ta’wil provided a means for Clarke and Glover to fathom their work alchemically in relation to the mercurial wishing well of the unconscious. Although Olson would strongly reject any connection between his writing and the image of three maidens and Paris that Glover selected for the cover illustration from Prolegomena To the Study of Greek Religion (1903; 1991) by Jane Ellen Harrison, Hermes moves, nonetheless, into the depth of a far-reaching relational poetics. With Hermes, then, Clarke’s esoteric partnership with Glover flows back to Olson’s "CLEAR, SHINING WATER," De Vries says,” published by The Institute of Further Studies on July 1, 1968. In "CLEAR, SHINING WATER," De Vries says” Olson wrote: Wishing, in that sense, to start at the bottom - or, in fact, to get there (that is, by the etymological part of ta’wil /_/ the other part, if I take Corbin right, in a footnote in Avicenna, or, His Visionary Recitals, is topological - and this present instance seems very much perhaps the (vertical) topological matter, of all matters which can find a basis for a physics of psyche at this revolutionary point in re-taking the cosmology of creation as fact, both in instant and in consequence, thus prevailing, hidden or no, in whatever is up anywhere for whomever the more so now_// (364) The ontological awakening of the soul to the quantum “double trouble” within “a physics of psyche” may be read in the context of Corbin’s esotericism. In “Henry Corbin & American Poetry - Part 4,” available on the World Wide Web, Tom Cheetham notes “… Olson's notion of a "physics of psyche"… derives from Corbin, though whether Olson got the phrase from him is not the issue - the structures of their thinking are clearly similar.” Cheetham then supplies the following citation from Corbin’s Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth (1977): "...ultimately what we call physis and the physical is but the reflection of the world of the Soul; there is no pure physics, but always the physics of some definite psychic activity." (81). Curiously enough, Creeley makes use Corbin’s Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi in “The Creative,” a lecture delivered at Johns Hopkins University in 1972. Creeley’s reading of Corbin’s esoteric milieu expresses itself anxiously and dismissively. He downplays the orientation to the esoteric pole and ontological shift in spiritual perception at the heart of Corbin’s phenomenology. “What is here to discover,” avers Creeley, “is neither new nor significantly esoteric” (Was That a Real Poem & Other Essays, 1979, p.36). As the lecture continues, Creeley moves through Williams and Zukofsky, before swinging attention back to Corbin, whose writing on the himma and the projective powers the gnostic artist through active imagination are quoted at length. The gnosis kardios of the himma is best understood to be an esoteric process of spiritual perception, despite the dismissal of that pole in Creeley’s reading of Corbin (for context


on the himma and “Thought of the Heart” in Western philosophy and psychology see Robert Avens, The New Gnosis, 1984, pp. 39-48). Creeley’s secular squeeze on the sacred himma of Sufism is sounded crassly through an expletive. Thus Creeley stakes through his feeling shadow a ham-fisted unthinking claim on a collective heart: “But that himma shit, man, that’s really my kind of people. Heart-felt” (38). In July 1984, Creeley lectured on Language poetry at Naropa. He read this passage from Charles Bernstein’s essay “Semblance” included in The Language Book (1984), which had been just recently published: Not "death" of the referent -- rather a recharged use of the multivalent referential vectors that any word has, how words in combination tone and modify the associations made for each of them, how 'reference' then is not a one-on-one relation to an 'object' but a perceptual dimension that closes in to a pinpoint, nail down (this word), sputters omnitropically (the in in the which of who where what wells), refuses the build up of image track/projection while, pointillistically, fixing a reference at each turn (fills vats ago lodges spire), or, that much rarer case (Peter Inman's Platin and David Melnick's Pcoet two recent examples) of "zaum' (socalled transrational, perversely neologistic)--"ig ok aberflappi"-- in which reference, deprived of its automatic reflex reaction of word/stimulus image/response roams over the range of associations suggested by the word, word shooting off referential vectors like the energy field in a Kirillian photograph. All of which are ways of releasing the energy inherent in the referential dimension of language, that these dimensions are the material of which the writing is made, define its medium. (115) While Bernstein’s agonistic polarization of reference “refuses the build up of image track/projection” and thus butts heads with Olson whose “image of man” (MP, 473) is glorified in the sacrifice of The Maximus Poems, his phrase: "the in in the which of who where what wells" stirs Creeley to a free association that amplifies the meaning of the double “in” with reference to the hunger instinct, nursing dilemma and character of his young son. Thus oral development, primitive aggression and incorporations of language at the mother’s breast are evoked from Creeley’s personalizing turn of attention toward a family memory, a telling domestic qualification of the apocalyptic cannibalism that rides with Olson in Call Me Ishmael. Creeley’s immersion in Bernstein’s species of verse returns him, unconsciously it seems, to a complex of company that grips both language and psyche with an emerging semiotic power that will shift the emphasis of poetics at SUNY Buffalo away from the projective mechanism espoused by Olson and re-enforced by his use of Corbin’s view concerning the projecting powers of himma in order to extend the imaginal range of “The Creative.” Reading the signs of the hunger instinct in "the in in the which of who where what wells" back into the pieces of his own life-script, Creeley divines the coming of Bernstein’s “Introjective Verse” to Buffalo as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed


introjection - a primary process that organizes the psyche around digestible and indigestible feedings and identifications - is precisely the psychological mechanism Creeley scores in relation to Bernstein, whose own “Introjective Verse” will eventually codify a combative verbal stance that mocks the sacred frame of Olson’s projective imagination: It’s hardly this: the uselessness of a baby, by itself and thus by others, crying in its misconception of its relation to culture, that semiotic fluidlessness to which it owes its gigantic existence. If it squall, it shall find much to squall about, and shall squirm too, culture has such flummoxing ways of terrorizing all that is outside. But if it stays inside itself, if it is contained in its infancy as if it is a participant in the life immediately surrounding, it will be able to babble and in its babbling hear what is shared. It is in this sense that the introjective ache, which is the artist’s artlessness in the intimate streets of enfoldment, leads to scales more intimate than the child’s. It’s all so easy. Culture works from irreverence, even in its constructions. Irreverence is the human’s special qualification as vegetable, as mineral, as animalady. Language is our profanest act. My Way: Speeches and Poems (1999), p.112 In Bernstein’s “Introjective Verse” the Hermetic connection between language and the sacred is severed. Breath is constricted: “If the beginning and end is the breathlessness of words, sound in that material sense, then the domain of poetry blurs and blurts.” To be sure, the “breathlessness” prescribed by Bernstein in “Introjective Verse” registers more than an anxiety of influence over Olson’s grandiose ontology of “king syllable” in its “Aryan root.” Recall this etymological flurry from “Projective Verse:” For from the root out, from all over the place, the syllable comes, the figures of, the dance: “Is” comes from the Aryan root,[11] as, to breathe. The English “not” equals the Sanscrit na, which may come from the root na, to be lost, to perish. “Be” is from bhu, to grow. (Collected Prose, 242) Nevertheless, Bernstein locates the poet in the Hermetic matrix of thieving: A poem is energy absconded by the poet from where she got it (she will have several stashes), by way of the nonreaders themselves, all the way over to, the poem. Oy! Against Olson’s “way of the BREATH,” Bernstein “blurts” an “Oy,” a Yiddish expression for exasperation and heart ache. Through a ta’wil of Bernstein’s “Oy,” Olson’s “way of the BREATH” is carried back through Hermetic sense to the complex grief of the heart in a post-Holocaust world. As Peter Gutmann notes in Mendele: Yiddish Literature and Language (Vol. 10.014, June 13, 2000 available online):


An etymological relationship between 'oy vey' and 'oweh' is also strongly suggested by the Yiddish phrase '(oy,) vey iz mir', where 'vey' exactly parallels the High German 'weh' in 'es ist mir weh ums Herz'(more or less literally: "there is WEH around my heart", "my heart is aching/grieving for/about something or someone"). The difference between the projective verse of Olson and the introjective verse of Bernstein erupts around Creeley. From the field of “heart-felt” relational awareness, deep in “that himma shit, man,” Creeley’s premonitory mind articulates the crucial adversative difference between Language innies and Olsonian outies. Quite clearly Olson’s “Projective Verse” and Bernstein’s “Introjective Verse” encode the left brain/right brain lateralization and typological preference that inform the agonistic drives of these moieties at Buffalo’s Hermetic borderline. Let’s not forget that Creeley has celebrated his connection to the Hermetic imagination in “Prayer to Hermes:” Imagination is the wonder of the real, and I am sore afflicted with the devil’s doubles the twos, of this half-life this twilight. (The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1975-2005, Volume 2, p. 183) For a time Creeley’s Hermetic imagination seems to straddle the adversative poetry moieties of the left brain profane particle Language clan of innies and right brain sacred wave Olsonian clan of outies. Neither one nor two but a mixture walks here in me No doubt Clarke could discern in Creeley, a Gemini poet under the rulership of Mercury like himself, the organic potential to contribute support to the Hermetic teaching on mind intended for A Curriculum of the Soul. In From Feathers To Iron: A Concourse of World Poetics, published in 1987, Clarke quotes a passage from Olson’s Poetry and Truth in relation to an alchemical procedure of Gerhard Dorn, which yields a “fourth scalar,” “the world which,” Olson says “prevents, but once felt, enables your being to have its heaven” (155). Clarke then


places the procedure in the context of Olson’s understanding of ta’wil proposed in “The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum.” In a letter written to Clarke on September 29, 1988, Glover considers the passage and procedure in relation to Creeley and the factors preventing completion of “Mind” for A Curriculum of the Soul. Glover reads Creeley’s resistance to the project through Olson and Clarke thusly: “mind refuses the soul any further progress” must be what Robert Creeley is doing…” Here the difference between Creeley’s existential barrier and Clarke’s ontological barrier seems clear. Poignantly enough, Creeley would confess to Glover “love/hate” for A Curriculum of the Soul. In a marvelous a double-bind seemingly written by Hermes, Creeley evades his writing assignment on “Mind” for A Curriculum of the Soul and so creates a shadow issue for Clarke and Glover. The “half-life” lineaments of a Hermes complex within existential barriers and individual personalities are revealed at certain points in the correspondence between Clarke and Glover, as free associations and consternations about money are amplified through Creeley’s refusal to complete the fascicle on “Mind” for A Curriculum of the Soul. In the end Creeley resisted the “mental action” that “yields this fourth scalar” (FFTI, 155). Clearly Creeley felt alienated from Olson’s cult of the soul and the heavenly participation mystique that constellates from under-directed thinking and intuitive perception. Clarke makes the matter of Creeley’s estrangement from the cult of the soul explicit in a letter written to Tom Clark in 1991. Thus Clarke divulges: the whole issue is over the "spiritual" (the Curriculum as you know is of the Soul) - when we were starting out with the Cof S Robt Kelly put the project down for dredging up the old question of the soul again and Charles cancelled him, "never darken my door again…"……. Creeley & I have always "parted company" on this issue, but it wasn't openly stated because there was no occasion - till now; now, finally, this "groundswell of resentment and possessiveness" (RC) has become the occasion, the occasion of the public exposure of different "frames" (Bob's word) of Olson by people who knew him at different "times" in his life. And any "special view" of Olson might be called possessive of him, but I think what has "spooked" Bob (his word) is this what he regards as religious contexting of Olson. With the typological faculties of thinking and sensation shaping Creeley’s personal equation, he could not accommodate the expansive right brain afterglow of “the spiritual” built on the “mental action” of intuition, the function dominant in Olson and Clarke, which dictates a problematical “religious contexting.” Hence Creeley felt compelled to bail from his assignment for A Curriculum of the Soul, “spooked” by the esoteric and intuitive ethos of the right brain ecclesia in which Clarke was “the vicar.” Though Creeley could not innately trust the Institute of Further Studies to incorporate Olson’s soul into a cosmic text hinged to the heavenly negentropic buffer that reverses


his disorderly spin cycle through guidance from the Hermetic tradition, he remains through resistance to the mercurial baptismal fount inside the right brain ecclesia the psycho-pomp who by way of a double-cross leads paradoxically back to “CLEAR, SHINING WATER.” Presented at Soul in Buffalo Symposium, Buffalo, NY, 2010


You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->